Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Learning Story: The Boy Who Drew A List and Made A Book

Learning Stories are a form of assessment, reflection and sharing that I first heard about through a Reggio yahoogroup I belong to, which offered a link to this website.  Basically, they consist of narration and photos (or other visual documentation) that tell the story of a child's singular learning experience, followed by a "What It Means" section, an "Opportunities and Possibilities" section and a "Parent's Voice" section.   There is no right or wrong way to write them, but, to be most effective, there are conventions that a man named Tom Drummond conveniently summarized in a PDF entitled Writing Learning Stories.

Folks who used to scrapbook or currently blog, like me, might enjoy adapting the Learning Stories concept for their own use to create both memories and documentation about their child's learning and development.  I know I intend to start creating some well-developed ones.

Here is my first attempt:

The Boy Who Drew A List and Made A Book

Recently, we have gotten our printer working again, and Luke is very excited about it.  Daily, he asks for print outs of different things that interest him.  This morning, he asked me to print him a number of things and waited, not so patiently, while I finished what I was doing, so I could print him some things.  As he waited, he persisted in his request by making comments such as, "I like print out books, Mom," and, "Please print me some cats and babies."   He kept asking for things over and over until I got annoyed and corrected his behavior.

Despite this, when I was ready and Luke had demonstrated some better behavior, I printed him some coloring pages. He quickly set to work coloring them.

He colored the cat page, before writing "Dad" and "Luke" on it, 
because there was "a kitty Daddy and there was a kitty Luke, Mom."

He also colored the baby one, wrote "LUKE" on both that one and the cat one,
"because they are my things.  That's why I wrote 'Luke' on them, Mama," 
and he wrote Jack on the baby one because "that's the baby's name."

When he finished the cat and baby coloring, Luke asked me for more print outs.  I told him that we had other things to do and that if he kept asking me over and over again to print things, I would not print him anything.  Asking once and knowing I would help him later was what I expected.

Later in the day, after we had enjoyed outdoor time, lunch and some other activities together, I sat down to do some work.  As soon as the computer was turned on, Luke requested more print outs.  I told him I could not comply with his request yet, because I had to finish a task.  I then eminded him not to persist in asking me for print outs over and over and, instead, suggested that he build some K'nex rockets or entertain his brother.  He did both of these things and also sketched some drawings of:

some astronauts,
a football guy,

 a hockey guy
and a dog.

After some time, Luke was ready for me to take a break and thought I might be ready to stop my work as well.  So, he brought me his drawings and asked me to print them.  I thought he meant for me to copy them, but he explained he wanted me to print out similar things.  He said he had drawn the sketches "because you were too busy, Mom, and I wanted you to know what I like...  I didn't want to forget what I wanted you to print."
At this point, I closed out of what I was doing and did a Google search for coloring images of astronauts, football players, hockey players and a dog.  Luke fixed his eyes on the computer and picked out which images he wanted me print, taking them off the printer tray as quickly as the printer could spit them out.

Immediately, Luke set to work coloring the printouts -- not with the care he sometimes uses when coloring -- but with great gusto and typical-of-Luke creativity:
 He added nothing to the astronaut, but told a story to himself about the astronaut as he colored him.

He ensured the hockey player had a puck to use.
  He gave the football player a  field goal and a "G" on the Packers goal line, 
because "he's trying to make them win, Mum.  
He plays with the Steelers."

And, he added reins all around the husky,
"so he can pull the sled, Mum,"
plus "footprints underneath him.  
And there's 'husky' (written)  underneath him and I put a 'R' for ran."  

Once they were colored, Luke gathered all these pictures together back to back, "so I can make a book, Mama."  The unbound book is now waiting for Daddy to bring them to work to staple them.

What It Means

Luke, I am so proud of the patience you showed in waiting for me to print you things.  I know being patient is difficult for you, but you are becoming stronger at demonstrating this virtue

I was pleased with how you are beginning to use letters on your own to label and add details to your drawings. Sometimes, you ask me how to spell things, but usually you use your memory or invent your own spellings or representations for words.  It shows your creativity.

Your creativity also shows in how you approached "making a list" by drawing sketches.  This demonstrated clever problem solving.  Since you did not want to forget what you wanted me to print, and knew you could not keep asking me over and over for things or would get nothing, you came up with a reasonable solution.  It made me very proud.

I am so glad you like coloring and make everything you do your own by adding details, words and ideas that come from your own imagination.  I enjoy looking at your drawings and colorings and reading your books with you. 

Opportunities and Possibilities

You are very creative in your art work, problem solving and book making.  

To make your artwork even more appealing and expressive, you could take your time with it.  Choose your colors purposefully and take time using them.  Experiment with different media -- crayons, colroed pencils, chalk, paints, collaging, etc.  Continue to add your own details and letters to express your thoughts and share the stories you imagine. 

To continue practicing effective problem solving strategies, think about things you want and what others have expressed they need.  Then, as you did today, use your creativity and talents to come up with a solution that can make everybody happy.  Use virtues, such as patience, to help you think of and carry out solutions.

As you make further books, maybe you can go beyond simple coloring and drawing.  Take pictures of your sculptures, constructions and models and create storybooks with them.  Make collages.  Do paintings.  Write more text.  Think of all the different artwork we see in books we enjoy and try making some like it.

Thank you,

I am sharing this at Works for Me Wednesday, because writing Learning Stories works for us as a way of documenting, reflecting upon and sharing our children's development.  I am also sharing it at Homeschool Hints, since this form of documentation could help other homeschooling parents in building state-mandated assessment portfolios or in illuminating learning that is happening now or could happen (think emergent curriculum) with their children.  Please visit the links at both sites to see what works in others' homes and homeschools.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Accidental Provocation: A Stranger in the Woods Becomes a Mini Reggio-Inspired Experience

Reggio Emilia Inspiration
A Reggio Emilia-inspired education is something I long to whole-heartedly embrace with my young children, synthesizing it with other methods that appeal to me, such as Montessori.  But, being a novice –and a busy mom and independent contractor one at that, with limited time to truly research and apply Reggio concepts – I find myself simply dabbling at Reggio.  Layering a piece of inspiration acted upon here.  Immersing myself in a concept reflected upon there.  Coloring our days with a tint of the philosophy, but not being enriched by the full, deep hues of it yet.

It is with this pale wash of Reggio Emilia philosophy that I share a bit about the other afternoon, reflecting on an accidental provocation, which is a complete oxymoron in Reggio-speak.

You see, a “provocation” is an experience organized by an adult that invites children’s curiosity and makes their interests and wonderings visible.  It is a thoughtful, deliberate action on the educator’s part to provoke children to discover learning.  It is designed with a clear intent, usually to help teachers discern what children know, what misconceptions they have, what they are wondering about and what sort of project might unfold.  Thus, if you are a Reggio purist, there can be no “accidental” provocations.  They are all well-planned.

I am not a purist.  I am a mom who needed to do this:

 Yep, bathe the baby while keeping his two older siblings peacefully engaged in something within eye and ear-shot – preferably something that was a “treat” (and, thus, something they would remain occupied with) that was not simple mind candy.  Something that was simple, but would give them a bit to chew on.

Now, don’t laugh heartily as I share what that was:

Yes, a video!

Now, let me preempt the protests I hear coming:  I know Reggio classrooms would likely not employ the use of videos for much, especially provocations; videos are far too passive.  And, I do not allow a ton of screentime in our home.  However, Luke and Nina have been loving the Stranger in the Woods book (about animals trying to discover who the stranger -- a snowman that children have built and set food out on -- is in their wooded area), Winter Friends board book and all things snow-related, so I thought that watching Stranger in the Woods, the Movie. would be an acceptable "exception" as  away spark some further interest and learning.

Was I ever right?

The Experience Unfolding

As Jack “oo”ed over his siblings ideas...

 Luke and Nina asked if they could raid the fridge and winter gear baskets for materials for their mini-project.  I allowed them to do so, and, then, agreed to let them go outside to literally construct their learning as I watched from the window while nursing Jack.

What a joy it was to see them working together to build their very own snowman, deciding how to use the turnip and radishes as a face and where to find some sticks and twigs in our snow-covered yard, all while working together as a team so nicely.

As I witnessed their cooperative "work", I smiled, thinking about the joy they were experiencing in taking the lead in their own project and the inherit learning of that project.  Also, I was simply happy to see them interacting with such focus and compassion for each other and for the creatures around our home.  So, I was more than happy to help them get bird seed out of the cabinet when they came tromping in to ask for some.  

Of course, they wanted to put it on snowman’s hat and sprinkle it on the ground to feed the birds and squirrels.  And, I was equally happy to say "yes" when they asked for the camera to document their own work -- including the trail of food they left to lure the animals in...

and their snowman feed-the-animals sculpture...

In fact, Luke and Nina enjoyed all this so much, they later asked if they could raid the fridge again – this time for radishes and a potato in order to build a “sideways turned” snowman, that they photographed on their own again. 

Then, the next day, they ran out to see what, if anything, the animals had dined upon, as well as to collect their mittens and hats so animals and wind would not carry them away.

So, now the question:  Was this a deep, well-facilitated Reggio-inspired project?  No.  Was it a somewhat accidental provocation that encouraged a curriculum of curiosity where the children experimented with what sorts of food might appeal to wildlife creatures, how they could construct a snowman without help, how they might photograph their construction and how they could work together?  Yes. 

Shades of Reggio colored this experience in that I did not say to the children, “Watch this video and see how you can copy it.”  Nor did I ask, “Would you like to feed critters by building your own snowmen?”  Nor did I direct, “Let’s build our own snowmen, put food on them, leave them out and check on them in the morning.”  Instead, I simply offered a provocation (the video – however poor and unimaginative a provocation any “real” Reggio educator would say that was – and free reign of  our refrigerator produce drawer) and, then, observed what the children happily set about exploring and doing as a result.  In doing so, I came away with some questions/ideas for future learning:

  • What animals near our yard like which foods?
  • Do certain foods seem to freeze more than others when left outside, making them unappealing to animals?
  • Are there other reasons certain foods might not be appealing to local critters?
  • How can you roll, pack, shape and stack snow to make a sculpture?
  • What angles allow you to take the best photographs?
  • How does light and shadow play into photographing a subject, especially in the snow?
  • What other sculptures might we build?
  • How else could we be kind to creatures in the winter?

Will we explore these questions?  In all honesty, probably not many of them anytime soon.  But, simply through setting out the provocation and letting the experience unfold as far as it did, we all came away with something to chew on:
  • Luke and Nina learned a bit about teamwork, kindness to critters, properties of snow, etc.
  • I ended up with more to reflect upon.
  • The animals got some new nibbles.
  • And, Jack had a peaceful moment to explore his toes!

These are the days I love the freedom of homeschooling!

This post is being shared at sunrise learning Lab’s Reggio Wednesday, plus at We Are THAT Family’s Works for Me Wednesday (because Stranger in the Woods really works for us as an impetus to enjoy an afternoon of snow fun) and at A Mommy’s Adventure’s Story + Art (because the art of the snowman “sculptures” stemmed from an interest in the Stranger in the Woods video that was preceded by a week of loving the Stranger in the Woods book.)  Enjoy the ideas others share at all of these link-ups.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pro-Life Preschoolers: Pausing to Pray

a little story to offer and ask for prayers...

The phone rings.  While I take the call, Luke and Nina begin setting up stuffed toys and dollies in the hallway for a football match.  I am glad they are too happily occupied to notice my emotions as I talk with my friend. 

Her and her family's strong and faithful prayers have been answered.  She is pregnant - with twins!  My heart bubbles over with joy for them and my eyes brim with tears of thanksgiving.  I know how much this family wants these babies and how they have already consecrated them through prayer and pilgrimage.  I am so very grateful that their prayers -- and those of us who have been praying with them -- have been heard!

But, there is more...  My friend shares with me that the babies may not be doing well.  She asks me for further prayers.  My voice cracks as I respond.  Tears slip from my eyes.  I can feel the strength of her faith.  I can empathize with the fear of having to give a child back to God before even holding that child in your arms.  I cannot imagine why she and her family must go through this period of distress, but I trust God has His plan and pray heartily that it is in line with the desires of my friend's heart.

When I finally get off the phone, I pick up my baby Jack and squeeze him as I cry -- so thankful that God surprised our family with him and so hoping that God's plan is for those little twin babies I have just heard about to be held by their mother, father and siblings in the months to come.

Then, I look towards Luke and Nina and shed another few tears.  Such gifts they are.  I cannot imagine my world without any of my three dear children here with me.  Often, they are a handful, but always they are my heart-filled.

Finally, I wipe my tears and smile.

"Luke.  Nina.  Can I tell you something?"  I gently interrupt their play.  "That was Mommy's friend...She has babies inside her, but they might be a little sick.  Would you like to say a prayer for them and for her?"

Immediately, both Luke and Nina pause from their play, bow their heads and pray -- quietly, in their own words, without any further guidance.  I do, too.

But, then, it strikes me:  Luke is praying.  Lately, he often balks at prayer time.  He refuses to read "Jesus" books.  He tells me he doesn't want to listen to the Bible songs he used to love.  And, when he does pray, it is often with some self-centered petitions at heart.   But, not at this moment.

At this moment, Luke and his sister are 100% engaged in prayer for two little unborn babies and their family.  With all their child-like love, innocence and confidence, they are asking God to help their yet-to-be-born friends.  Oh, that their prayers might fly straight to Heaven and be answered with the same speed and strength with which they were sent.  And, my, thank you, God, for answering this mother's prayer that her son's heart not be hardened to you already at such a young and tender age despite my desire to train him up in the way he should go.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And please.... Readers, I ask you to join my pro-life preschoolers and me in praying for my friend's twins and for all unborn babies.  May God's will be done - and, hopefully, include little bundles being wrapped up and held tightly in the loving hands of their families in the months to come

In Jesus' name.  Amen!

This post is being shared at Heavenly Homemakers' Gratituesday.   Check out the links there.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sensitive Sam, Written and Illustrated by Marla Roth-Fisch: Giveaway News

Sensitive Sam: Sam's Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending!Every once in a while my family is lucky enough to benefit from receiving copies of products for reviews.  A while back, we received Marla Roth-Fisch’s Sensitive Sam to review for Sensational Homeschooling, now at Our Journey thru Autism.  That review will be republished soon, and, in the meantime, you can read a quick book review and chat with Marla here at OJTA and also find a chance to win the book here at the SPD Blogger Network.

As I have posted about before, my family was quite reluctant to give our review copy of the book up for a Sensational Homeschooling giveaway, so you can bet we're entering the giveaway at the SPD Blogger Network.  Why, well as I explained in an earlier post about Sensitive Sam, none of my family "tired of Sensitive Sam’s rhythmic and expressive text, which used real language (including glossary terms such as “occupational therapy” and “sensory diet”) in rhyming couplets that kids can understand.  Nor did we get bored with its bright and plentiful illustrations, which offer concrete images to match almost every idea expressed in the book.  In fact, over several readings, the kids seemed to come to know and understand Sam and his life more and more while continuing to point out how they are similar to and different from him.  Love empathy (and sympathy)-inducing picture books!"

So, we are excited by the chance to win our very own copy to keep over at the SPD Blogger Network, where Jennifer is giving away a copy.  And, while we know,that sharing word about the giveawaty lessens our chances of winning, we cannot help but to do so.  Why?  Because:
  • the book is a wonderful, kid-friendly way for folks to better understand SPD and we want more folks to understand this disorder which we think affects our family.
  • the SPD Blogger Network is a rich new blog resource for families wanting to share their SPD stories.  (Full disclosure:  I write occasionally for the SPD Blogger Network, but have no vested interest in it beyond learning and sharing.)  It is a place for folks to come together to increase their own understanding of SPD and that of others.
So, click on over to enter the contest and enjoy browsing some of the other posts while you are at the SPD Blogger Network site.  And, also, keep watch at OJTA, where I will be republishing my earlier review, interview with Marla and lesson planning ideas in the future.

The more sharing the better!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Makeshift Monday (Okay, Sunday): Stringing CVC Words

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads with over 200 beadsA few weeks ago, our friends handed an almost-like-new Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Bead Kit down to us.  What a fabulous Montessori-friendly resource/tool/toy it is!

I have dreams of making photo cards of beads in specific patterns to use for Math work, of getting small objects together for some spelling-object-match Language work, of putting together a simple bead stringing tray...  Ideas abound.

But reality seems to be keeping those ideas from becoming concrete activities.  Life's little hurdles, such as a broken toe for Mommy, pneumonia for Luke and an infection for Nina, keep tripping us up, mandating that time Mommy might have for preparing activities be reallocated for hours spent in medical office waiting rooms.  Nevertheless, learning continues, often with makeshift activites.  For example:

One day, as I was nursing Jack, Luke and Nina began asking me how to spell different things they wanted to try to string the letters for.  Some words I simply told them the letters for.  Others, I had them sound out.  They happily searched for the appropriate letters in the bead box tray and worked their pincer grasps and eye-hand coordination to string them.

Then, once I finished nursing Jack, in order to add a reading element to the activity for Luke and a lower case-upper case matching element for Nina, I got a small white board, on which I wrote a number of words easy CVC (consonant,-vowel-consonant) , VCC (vowel-consonant-consonant) and family name sight words.  For fun, and to help Luke recognize when he read each word correctly, I added some quick sketches next to each word.

To my amusement, Luke felt the need to connect each word to its accompanying picture by drawing a line.  At first, this seemed a bit ridiculous to me, since the sketches were so close to the words and since I hadn't mixed them up as a puzzle for him to match word to pictures with.  But, then, I realized, "Hey!  It's good left-to-write writing practice and it's what he wants to do."  So, the beading activity paused while the writing lines one took over.

Then, it was back to the beading: eye hand coordination, concentration, control, ability to follow through from left to right, preparation for writing, and some spelling and reading, too.  Not bad for a makeshift activity!

What Montessori-friendly tools and toys have you been using in your home?  Any successful makeshift ideas?  Do share in a comment.  And, also be sure to stop by One Hook Wonder's Montessori Mondays where this post is being shared.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Imagination - Dramatic Play

Can you imagine what these two are up to?

Why, they are astronauts traveling through space, of course.  They've got on their helmets and their protective suits, complete with packs (pillows up their sweaters).  They even  have their space shuttle steering wheel neabry (the exercise wheel next to Luke's hand.)  And, most importantly, they have their imaginations.

How I marvel everyday lately at the adventures the kids' imaginations take us on!  And how I reflect on what incredible genius the Lord has in gifting each us with our own distinct creativity.  Still further, what inspiration I find in Ephesians 3:20:  "Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine."

Infinitely more than my two older kids can imagine?  That is something. It is something I am very, very grateful for.  Something that fills me with hope and happiness and  moves me with a desire to give a shout out today:

Thank you, Lord, for the snippets of imagination I witness everyday in my vocation as a mother.  Moreover, thank you for the infinite power with which You work in each of us.  May we all remember to let You work through us, giving You the glory.

This post is being shared at Thankful Thursday at Women Taking a Stand.  Enjoy the links there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Phonics Clean Up Time Game

What do you get when you mix one big mess in your living room, a small white board and a highlighter?

 Inspiration for a new clean up activity, of course:

The Phonics Clean Up Game

What do you need?
the aforementioned mess, a highlighter (or whiteboard marker), a whiteboard and a rag/tissues/whiteboard eraser

How do you do it?
How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?: Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism, from Phonics to FluencyEasy!  Write a letter or combination of letters on the whiteboard.  Ask the children to tell you the sound the letter(s) make.  Then, challenge them to find an object in the mess that begins with the sound to clean up.  If using two-letter combos like "sh" or "ch", try using the Diphthong Song from How Do I Teach This Child to Read as a clue for beginning readers to remember the sound the letters make.  If the children like writing, allow them to take turns writing letters on the white board for the next objects to be cleaned up.

What inspired the creation of this game?
Luke and Nina spent one of their recent  free-play periods building a Santa's sleigh construction, packing their toys into bags and happily engaging in dramatic play, zooming about the air to deliver presents to boys and girls.  (Who cares if it's months after Christmas?  They still love playing Santa and I love witnessing their creativity as they do it.)

After some time, the dramatic play began dissolving and, since it was "past time" for Family Work Time, I told the kids they needed to land the sleigh and think about what we should attack during Family Work Time.

Not so surprisingly, Nina was eager to do her favorite practical life activity of late -- vaccuming her bedroom, while -- and this was a shocker -- Luke volunteered to "make the living room clean" by himself.  (Luke rarely, if ever, volunteers to clean up much of anything by himself. In fact, he usually lays on the floor, languishing, and whining about how he is "too tired" to clean, until Mommy or Daddy remind him that if he is too tried to clean up, he must be too tired to play or do anything further, which prompts Luke to begrudgingly help with tidy times .)  So while I helped Nina, Luke did a surprisingly adept job his choice of work.

However, when the Family Work Time timer went off, I found Luke losing steam fast as his job wound down.  All was tidy in the living room around him, except a deep pile of puzzle pieces in the center of the floor that he'd just dumped out of the last of Santa's sacks.

What to do?

Well, commend Luke, of course.  He had demonstrated enormous independence and sticktoitivity in the work he had done.  Also, figure out a way to help Luke finish the job without taking away his well-deserved pride in a job well done and his sense of independence.


With a happily surprised look, I commented, "Wow!  Luke, you cleaned all this up by yourself.  Nina and Mommy just finished vacuuming together and need something else to do.  Do you want us to help you use the puzzle pieces for a challenge?"  (Luke has been loving "challenges" of late.)

Then, when Luke excitedly asked for the challenge,I had to come up with one quickly.  Since Luke and Nina have been very interested letters and sounds lately (due in no small part to the  Leap Frog videos they received during our free family Christmas exchange), I knew I should weave a bit of early literacy and phonics work into the challenge.  And, since my tutoring bag - with a small whiteboard and highlighter in it - were nearby, I knew I could capitalize on the kids' additional interest in reading and  writing by adding a read-and-write element in.  And, so the Phonics Clean Up Time Game was born.

With lots of suspense, I grabbed the whiteboard, drew an "s" and asked what sound it made.  The kids hissed accordingly and I asked them if they could find a puzzle piece that began with that sound.  In seconds, the "starfish" pieces were back in theri puzzle trays.

Before long, the "f" fish and fingers, the "b" bird and butterfly and lots of other pieces followed suit.  Then, the kids started to ask if they could write letters for the game themselves (with Luke actually writing them and Nina doing her best to).  And, they also picked up puzzle peices and asked me to write the letters they started with so they could put the pieces away (a sort of backward take on the game.)  Plus, they did a bit of say-it-fast, say-it-slow Funnix style.

And, so clean up time morphed into a fun learning activity in itself, much like it did one day when we approached cleaning up with fine motor fun.  The Phonics Clean Up Game is one we'll be playing again!

This post is being shared at We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday and Many Little Blessings Helpful Homeschool Hints, since we hope Phonics Clean Up Time might work as well for other families with young children as it did for us and since keeping spaces tidy is such a huge part of hoemschooling .  It is also being shared at Sunrise Learning Lab's Reggio Wednesday since, although not a Reggio project, the clean-up time came about partly due to my own reflections on our children, their learning and my role as their teacher/facilitator.  (Reflection is an important part of the Role of the Teacher in Reggio-inspired education.)    If you have a moment, please pop on over to both link-ups to be inspired by others' ideas!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Moments for Motherhood with Thanks to Jennie Linthorst of LifeSpeaks Poetry Therapy

And the learning journey began...
If there is one thing I have always believed must be true of good teachers, it is that they are continual learners.  Thus, as I balance the wants and needs of each day, I continually seek learning experiences not only for the kids, but for myself, too.  

Recently, I have been blessed with the opportunity to count part of Jennie Linthorst's Poetry Workshop for Parents of Children with Special Needs among that learning.  In fact, in the two sessions of the workshop that I have experienced, I have rediscovered how cathartic it can be to process life through poetry.  I have relearned how to embrace a voice that used to pour itself out on page after page of journals prior to marriage and children.  I have found a facilitator (Jennie) who is enthusiastic, encouraging, challenging and motivating all at once.  And, best of all, I have savored some current moments of me-time to reflect upon prior moments of "ahh" times!

As an example, looking back five years and 11 months or so, I wrote the following poem about the moment I knew I was to become a mom.  What a gift that moment was and what a privilege it is to keep unwrapping all that has come of it:

You Are Right

Prayer works, my child
You are not sick

The run you couldn’t finish
The hike you breathed so heavy during
The exhaustion out of nowhere
They mean something

Your body is not failing you
Your prayer has been heard
Release the worry
And know

Nothing is wrong
You are right

Inside of you
Is life

Eternity begins anew

A gift
A joy
A responsibility
An answer

Embrace the journey of motherhood that lays ahead

This poem flowed forth as part of my first week's assignment from Jennie.  With her compassionate, clear guidance, I was able to reflect upon the birth of my journey to training up my children's happy hearts.  Now, that is learning this Mama loves.  And it is something I think other parents might enjoy, too.  

I certainly can attest that Jennie is a fantastic facilitator - gentle, yet probing; warm and supportive. I recommend her to anyone who seeks to give themselves permission to free up both heart and pen (or keyboard!), in a safe environment, to explore a personal story of life, parenting and self-discovery.  LifeSpeaks is not your old-school, high school poetry class, but an inspiring workshop that will make your heart sing, while, perhaps, pulling a few of your heartstrings as well.

I am sharing this post at Heavenly Homemakers' Gratituesday because I am not only very grateful for the gift of motherhood, but also for the kindness Jennie Linthorst has extended to me through her LifeSpeaks Poetry Therapy work.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, Jennie!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Special Days, Snow, Space, Secret Recipes and More

What a delightful and eclectic week it’s been!

Groundhog Fun
Luke Groundhog in His Snow-Burrow
 We spent the early part of the week reading groundhog books, doing Groundhog puppet shows, building burrows, inside and out, and doing a Groundhog storyhour at home (because the real library story got snowed out for us – we could not get out of our road to make it there!) Lots of fun and learning – especially with flashlight-shadow discoveries!

Oops!  Missed a St Brigid Reprise
Last Year's St. Brigid's Day Liturgical Table

Despite having Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story out from the library, I completed blanked on having our second annual St. Brigid celebration.  Bummer!  we had so much fun with it last year, and we so love having Saints Teas and Celebrations.  So, I have put a reminder for next year on the December page of our current calendar and am wondering: What do others do to organize and remind themselves not to forget celebrating their Special Day celebration recipes, activities, teas, etc ideas?  Do leave a comment to share your ideas or link to blog posts about them.  I find others organizational strategies so inspiring!

Spaced Out!
Luke holding two self-made paper space ships in his and Nina's spaceship construction...

While Nina and I were out at the library the other day, so I could to tutor a friend’s son while Nina enjoyed 100% one-on-one attention and story reading with his Mom, “the guys” stayed home together.  Yep, Mike was snowed out of work, so Daddy, Luke and Jack had “guy time”.  Somehow, Saturn came up, which provided an opening for Mike to share one of his childhood passions with Luke – planets and space.  Now, our home is filled with impromptu space exploration in the form of puzzles, constructions, youtube videos, books and drawings among other things.  So, we would love links to your favorite kindergarten/pre-K astronomy ideas and printables and we also want to alert everyone tabout a giveaway we have going until Sunday that includes an awesome Montessori astronomy album as part of a free seat in an online course.  (No homework or assignments necessary with the course, either.  Just go at your own pace to learn as you wish.  All courses should be so easy!)

Snow, Snow, Snow!
Nina headed out to shovel.

We have had so much snow lately.  And our Nina is starting to like cold and snow better.  As a matter of fact, after helping me make breakfast the other morning, she ran, got her boots on with her jammies and headed out to the front walk, saying, “I’ll shovel for you, Mommy.”  Oh that she always would keep her willingness and delight for work.  Oh, that all we adults could model it – approaching all tasks with love, joy and vigor.  Maybe we should have named our little girl after her nana and St. Therese afterall. J

Stanger Secret Recipe
Luke's Lip-Lickin' Good "Stanger Recipe"
What do you get when you leave two Stanger kids in the kitchen while taking a business call?  A big mess and a challenge that leads to lip-licking yumminess (at least according to Luke.)  Yep, I came out of the bedroom this morning to discover that Nina and Luke – with light speed – had started “making you a surprise cake, mommy”.  After helping them clean up a mess of chocolate powder and questioning what they had already put in the bowl (cocoa, cinnamon, a bit of corn starch, milk, sugar and agave among other things),  I helped them add more to their mix to try to “save” the ingredients they’d used.  Some eggs, more milk, coconut flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder and olive oil later, we had a mix that seemed an okay consistency and taste to make “cupcakes” with.  Not sure we have a keeper recipe here, but Luke sure liked the results!

Belly Laughs and Reaching Out
Jack on a mission to get one of his siblings paper plate skates...
Sometimes, God speaks loudest with no words at all.  I cannot express how many times this past week that witnessing Jack’s belly laughs and watching him reach out to grasp something has moved me to reflective, but happy tears or warm, rich smiles.  At just seven months old, he is a constant lesson to me to savor simple moments, wonder at the marvel of natural development God designed so incredibly and understand that life is a joy. 

Writing Tips, Please
Daddy has been frustrated that his job does not allow him many opportunities to use his truer gifts and talents and has been rediscovering a passion for writing outside of work.  As such, he has published a few Bleacher Report articles, Super Bowl XLV: Steelers and Packers Are Success Stories for the NFL Model and Ben Roethlisberger Apologist: Why I Give Big Ben a Pass, (combining his interest in writing with his love for sports, particular his beloved Steelers!).  He is also looking into a college writing course to take outside work hours and wants to learn more about income-generating online writing and publishing (maybe self-publishing) a novel he has been dabbling at for years.  If anyone has some tried-and-true tips, resources, leads, links, etc., do share!  We’d love to use Daddy’s writing as an example for the kids about how to follow your passions to best use your gifts and talents and any direction from those who have done so before is always appreciated!

This post is being shared at Conversion Diary’s 7 Quick Takes

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Worldwide Montessori Giveaway: Celebrating Inspiration, Community and Resources

one of many cards from the course
Today, we have been taking off with lots of space-related learning as well as a sense of appreciation and celebration for things that we find vital in our homeschooling journey.  In honor of this, we are very excited to offer a giveaway for:

a seat in Karen Tyler's 
next awesome online Worldwide Montessori Course
This giveaway -- with great thanks to Karen Tyler's generosity and incredible talent and expertise -- is our way to celebrate three things we find so vital to our homeschooling endeavors:
  1. Inspiration:  Sometimes folks ask us, "What led you to homeschooling?"  The answer is a meandering one, partly explained in our initial post Why This Journey?  It also includes a desire to offer our children the educational models that what we feel are best suited to their individual personality types.  One of these models is Montessori.  In fact, it is the model that acted as a compass point when we first stepped on the homeschooling path.   We still feel inspired to move in that direction and are thrilled that we have the resource of Karen Tyler's Montessori albums to help us to do so.
  2. Community:  Another question we sometimes get asked is,  "What keeps you driving on with the whole 'homeschooling idea', despite its inherent challenges?"  Again, the answer is long, but part of it involves the wonderful support we have found in local homeschooling groups and among folks we have met in cyberspace.  Some of those friends we met through the Worldwide Montessori Online course we took and still others we have met through blogging and yahoogroups. We treasure the community we have found - both real and virtual and encourage anyone interested in homeschooling to do similarly.  (And we thank all 100 followers we have just recently recognized we have.  We never dreamed we'd have 100 folks following us here and are thrilled to know we have all those "friends" to count on for sharing and support.)
  3. Resources:  Yet another thing folks ask is, "How do you manage to lesson planning at home?"  The answer to this one changes constantly, but one thing remains the same:  resources!  We have found having a stock of physical and virtual resources invaluable.  Between freecycle, loans, the library, online freebies, etc. we have built a "library" of resources that we draw from as our children show interest in particular topics or as we feel it is a prime time to introduce one they might not be familiar with.  Case in point, just yesterday, our son began to ask about planets.  Having a solar system book, a solar system puzzle and Karen Tyler's awesome Astronomy album on hand allowed us to tap into that interest immediately and, today, Luke and Nina have been learning and playing with these three things and constructing knowledge - sometimes literally by building their own imaginary space ship!
Truly, knowing our inspiration, finding community and collecting resources are invaluable "must haves" for us as we continue our homeschooling journey.  And since all these tie-in to the Worldwide Montessori class we took, we can think of no better way to celebrate these things than to offer a seat in Karen's next class to one lucky reader.

Here's how you can win:
  • Option One for New Followers/Subscribers Only: Check out the Worldwide Montessori Online and tell us in a comment below what about Karen's course most excites you, then subscribe to us via email or google follower.  be sure to leave a way for us to contact you if you win.
  • Option Two for Old Followers/Subscribers Only:  Tell us in a comment below what album or lecture in the Worldwide Montessori course you would be most excited to receive or how you already are applying Montessori principles in your home.
  • Option Three for All:  Earn an additional entry by recommending a friend as a new Training Happy Hearts follower.  If that friend mentions you (with a way to contact you) in their comment, you will both earn an extra entry.
This giveaway will end at midnight (EST) Sunday.  a winner will be drawn at random and notified via email or blog comment and will have 48 hours to get back to us to claim the prize.

Bonus:  Karen Tyler has been truly generous this month in offering a number of giveaway seats for her March course.  If you'd like a copy of Karen's awesome Geography album or more chances to win a seat in her next class head on over to Our Journey THRU Autism, where you will find both.  

Since this post discusses three things we think can help any homeschooler, as well as offers a chance to win something valuable for all eductors of young people -- hoemschoolers or not -- and a link to where you can find a great, downloadable resource (i.e. the Geography album), we are sharing it at Many Little Blessings' Helpful Homeschool Hints.  Many Little Blessings is one of those wonderful resources we are grateful to have found as it helps us build a stronger - and oh so valuable - online community can be found.  Be sure to check out the links there to garner hints from new and veteran homeschoolers alike.


Related Posts with Thumbnails